Cork is Ireland’s second largest city and a true epicenter of music and more specifically, traditional music.
If you’re visiting Ireland and want to experience a truly Irish trad night, Cork is the perfect place to start. Numerous venues are open late every night of the week with live music continuing into the wee hours.
Of course, it’s not just traditional music, Cork is also where rock legend Rory Gallagher was raised and honed his craft and more recently, it’s become the home of the world-famous Guinness Jazz Festival.
So, whether you are just passing through so staying in town for a few nights, you won’t want to miss out on any of the live music Cork has to offer.
To make things even easier, we’ve rounded up a list of Cork’s must-see live music venues:
1. Cork Opera House
While not exclusively a music venue, Cork Opera House is a theatre and opera house that has hosted some of the biggest names in music from around the globe. So, it’s a must-see if you are on a music tour of the city.
The building itself was built in the 19th century and then revamped in the 1990s. From the likes of Aslan to Jethro Tull and Bombay Bicycle Club to the greats, like Ella Fitzgerald and BB King have all graced Ireland’s largest stage in Cork Opera House over the years.
2. The Oliver Plunkett
Located in the city centre, The Oliver Plunkett has long been a go-to institution for locals and visitors alike. Pop in for food, drink, catch-ups with friends and family, and some good live music. Whether it’s a trad session, open mic night or DJ, there is something to suit everyone’s taste in The Oliver Plunkett.
In between songs, you can take a stroll through the venue to check out all the different pictures and nods to historical events that line the walls. From John F. Kennedy’s visit to Cork in the 1960’s to famous visitors, the bar is like Cork city’s very own musical memory box.
3. Crane Lane Theatre
Walking through the doors of Crane Lane Theatre, you are instantly transported back in time. This once-notorious gentlemen’s club from the 1920s has kept its roots alive in its decor.
With three bars boasting decor from the 1920s, 30s and 40s and live singers, bands and DJs seven nights a week, this is the perfect spot in Cork to while away the time – especially since one of Crane Lane’s bars is Cork’s only late night venue (open until 2am) offering craft beer.
Not forgetting where it came from, the venue has lovingly become known as the home of Cork’s blues and burlesque scene as well, so be sure to check out their events schedule before you visit.
4. Live at St Luke’s
St Luke’s is a very unique venue and one worth bookmarking on your trip to Cork. It is a former church that opened its doors in 1889. The building ceased being a place of worship in 2003 and following a refurbishment, it has re-opened its doors as an enchanting venue for live music and events.
Previous acts who have played here include, Lisa Hannigan, Hothouse Flowers, Declan O’Rourke and many more.
Pro tip: If you are attending a gig here, all the seating is on old wooden pews so it’s a good idea to bring a cushion for some extra comfort.
5. Coughlan’s Bar
As well as being an award-winning music venue, Coughlan’s Bar is also proudly the home of one of Ireland’s largest collections of gin. The owners of the bar – the Coughlan and Ellis families – also have a long-standing history on Douglas Street in Cork as stone masons, publicans and medical practitioners.
The building that houses the bar is also a listed building, steeped in history for all to enjoy. From the walled beer garden dating back to the 1860s to the medical instruments and bottles that were once used to bottle Guinness on site, there is plenty to feast your eyes on while you’re here.
Coughlan’s Bar welcomes locals and visitors with open arms and an open fire, for a night full of music and laughs, with the likes of Glen Hansard, Lisa Hannigan and Delorentos have wowing the crowds.
6. Sin É
For an authentic Irish music experience in Cork, Sin É is top of the list for locals and visitors. In keeping with tradition, the musicians are never seen on stage, they are gathered in a circle in the corner of the bar. Why? Because in the past, it was believed that if the musicians were facing the crowd, it would denigrate the music.
You will find lively trad sessions seven nights a week from 7pm in Sin É, as well as special sessions on other nights throughout the year. So, no matter what day of the week you arrive in Cork, you’ll be sure to be welcome for a drink and a tune in Sin É.
Looking for more things to do in Cork City? Use our handy online concierge tool for tips on things to do, see and eat around Cork City.